Category : Law & Legal Issues

(NPR) Down Syndrome Families Divided Over Abortion Ban

Kelly Kuhns, 36, lives with her husband and their three children outside Columbus. The youngest, 2-year-old Oliver, was born with Down syndrome.

Kuhns, who works as a labor and delivery nurse, says a prenatal test during her pregnancy with Oliver revealed a mutation called Trisomy 21.

“When my provider called me and told me that the test came back positive for Down syndrome, I was definitely shocked. It was not what I was expecting at all,” Kuhns says. “I grieved — deeply.”

But Kuhns says she never considered ending the pregnancy.

“He’s still a baby. He’s still worthy of a life just like everybody else,” she says.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology, State Government

(CC) Philip Jenkins–What’s dangerous about exorcism?

Any dispute over the propriety of exorcism is particularly sensitive in the British context, because it recalls a dreadful religious and racial confrontation at the start of this century. In 2001, a sensational child murder case indicated the practice of witchcraft on British soil involving ritualistic killing and a trade in human body parts.

Obviously, such extreme criminal behavior demanded a strong and effective official response. But the media soon attributed such horrors to Pentecostal and charismatic churches themselves. In the sensational coverage that followed, the press launched shrieking exposés of immigrant churches that believed in spiritual warfare or practiced exorcisms. These came to be known as Witch Churches.

A potent racial theme pervaded this coverage, with a classic Heart of Dark­ness scenario portraying African primitivism and violence. Media ac­counts segued from reporting on exorcisms undertaken to fight diabolic forces to depicting the rituals themselves as a form of primitive jungle savagery dressed in Christian guise. Rituals designed to combat witchcraft were presented as a singularly dangerous manifestation of witchcraft and ritualistic child abuse. The regular conduct of immigrant churches involving exorcism and healing—without any abusive or violent element—was seen as deeply problematic and demanding police intervention.

The government responded by en­forcing far stricter rules for African clergy and ministers seeking to enter the United Kingdom, a draconian sanction introduced well before any like restrictions were imposed on extremist Muslims who flagrantly preached hatred and violence. In retrospect, the Witch Church affair was a grim example of religious intolerance— and in this instance, one directed against Christians.

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Posted in Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Theodicy, Theology: Scripture

(AM) Andrew Symes–Can biblical faith flourish in an intolerant secular society?

But today, according to Farron, that doctrine of liberalism has become dominant, and like state-sponsored Christianity, instead of being ‘emancipationist’, has become oppressive. Liberalism has today become like the ‘established church’ of Constantinian or post-Reformation times, wanting a monopoly of power, no longer a philosophy which challenges the human tendency to lord it over others. For Farron, the foundation of liberalism is Christianity (and particularly non-conformist evangelicalism), not political correctness masquerading as a kind of self-evident ‘liberalism’. “Secularism is a totalising creed that reduces everyone down to either consumer or regulatory units”, he says, and cannot be a basis for ‘shared values’.

At the same time, Christianity must be ‘liberal’, sticking to the Bible’s teaching, but not seeking to impose this on society in such a way as to restrict freedom of thought and action within the law. Farron isn’t saying, as some evangelicals do, that Christians should just focus on the local church, and be indifferent to the lives and choices of society outside the Christian community and those being evangelised on the fringe. As he said: “God will judge…it is not unloving or judgmental for Christians to point that out”. But he warns against the kind of close association of church and state:

“That in Britain we have a church trapped as part of the furniture of the state is a waste of a church.  A boat in the water is good.  Water in the boat, is bad.  A church in the state is good, the state in the church is bad.  Really bad.  It pollutes the message of that church.  It compromises it.  Weakens its witness.”

This serious criticism of the Church of England’s basic DNA, which Tim Farron did not develop in his argument, puts a finger on a key issue for thinking about the future of Anglicanism in Britain. Bible believing Christians in the C of E have always argued that Establishment ensures a place for influence at the high table, and an open door into communities at the grassroots. But if Farron is right, and the state is no longer Christian-liberal, and instead has become increasingly secular-authoritarian, then the state church no longer influences positively for Christianity. It must conform to secularism in order to stay at the high table – and in doing so must of necessity shed much of its Christian character, and collude in the persecution of orthodox Christianity.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(CT) Evangelicals and Domestic Violence: Are Christian Men More Abusive?

So, what does the science tell us? Are some forms of evangelical Protestantism bad for marriage and “good” at fostering domestic violence?

The answer is complicated, since some research suggests that gender traditionalism fuels domestic violence. For example, a study in the Lancet found that domestic abuse was higher in regions across the globe where “norms related to male authority over female behavior” are more common.

In general, however, the answer to these questions is “no.” In my previous book, Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands, I found that women married to churchgoing evangelical men—compared to women married to men in other major religious traditions or women married to unaffiliated men—report the highest levels of happiness. Their self-reports were based on two markers: “love and affection you get from your spouse” and “understanding you receive from your spouse.” This same demographic of women also report the highest levels of quality couple time.

My newer book Soul Mates: Religion, Sex, Love and Marriage among African Americans and Latinos, co-written with sociologist Nicholas Wolfinger, reveals similar findings. Men and women who attend church together are almost 10 percentage points more likely to report that they are “happy” or “very happy” in their relationships, compared to their peers who attend separately or simply don’t attend religious services at all. On average, then, evangelicals (as well other religious believers in the United States) who attend church regularly enjoy higher quality marriages compared to their less religious or secular peers.

Read it all.

Posted in Evangelicals, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Men, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence, Women

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–Can Americans break the cycle of incomprehension and aggression tends to destroy republics? The Masterpiece Bakeshop Case provides an Opportunity

Democratic life requires accepting that your own faction may be out of power roughly half the time. But in a culture this diverse and divided we trust our fellow citizens less, we share less with them, and we fear that any political defeat will leave our communities at their mercy, that if we lose power we will be routed and destroyed.

Meanwhile because we are so distant from our rivals, we cannot recognize that they share the same fears about what will happen if power is in our hands — or else we dismiss those fears as the pleadings of a wicked claque whose destruction is entirely merited.

As a conservative Catholic who works in a liberal milieu, I watched this happen after Obergefell v. Hodges. For its opponents, the same-sex marriage ruling was less frightening for what it did than for what they feared might follow: not just legal same-sex nuptials, but a sweeping legal campaign against the sexual revolution’s dissidents, in which conservative believers would be prodded out of various occupations, while their schools and hospitals and charities would be fined and taxes and regulated and de-accredited to death.

And liberals who felt ascendant in the Obama years simply couldn’t accept this fear as something to be managed and assuaged; to them, it was either ridiculous alarmism or a cloak for bigotry. So while the Obama White House was requiring nuns to pay for abortifacients and the A.C.L.U. was suing Catholic hospitals for not performing sterilizations and state bureaucrats were trying to punish a handful of Christians in the wedding industry, what Rod Dreher called “the law of merited impossibility” dominated the liberal mind: Religious conservatives were worrying about attacks on their institutions that would never arrive, and when the attacks did arrive they obviously deserved it.

Which in turn encouraged [some] religious conservatives to vote rather desperately for a celebrity strongman named Donald Trump….

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Sunday [London] Times) New Bill could allow unmarried men and women to enter civil partnerships

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Men, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Women

(WSJ) Tunku Varadarajan: India’s Imaginary ‘Love Jihad’–Judges break up the marriage of a Hindu woman who converted to Islam

This is the story of Hadiya, currently the most famous woman in India. Like any person of modest profile rocketed into national headlines, she’d rather be leading an anonymous life. But her parents—and the Supreme Court of India—will not let her.

Hadiya, a medical student, was born 25 years ago into a Hindu family in the southern state of Kerala. In 2015 she converted to Islam, and last year she married a Muslim man. In the process, she changed her Hindu given name from Akhila Ashokan to the adoptive Muslim Hadiya.

Her parents, appalled by the decision, urged the courts to annul her marriage in December 2016. They contended that she had converted to Islam under duress. Worse, they alleged that their daughter’s husband, Shafin Jahan, was involved in terrorism and intended to traffic her to Syria.

In a judgment that was startling in its paternalism and sexism, the Kerala High Court annulled Hadiya’s marriage, holding that she could not possibly have converted and married of her own free will.

Read it all.

Posted in Hinduism, India, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

(ABC) In Australia Same-sex marriage signed into law by Governor-General, first weddings to happen from January 9

Same-sex couples who have already married overseas will have their relationships recognised in Australia from midnight tonight.

After the drama and excitement of the same-sex marriage bill passing the House of Representatives chamber yesterday, the Governor-General signed off on it this morning.

Attorney-General George Brandis said couples had to give a month’s notice of their intention to marry, so the first same-sex weddings will be able to happen from January 9.

Senator Brandis said he became quite emotional when the bill passed and the public galleries erupted with cheers and singing.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

Newcastle Anglican Diocese had ‘do-nothing’ approach to child sex abuse claims, royal commission finds

The royal commission into child sexual abuse has found powerful paedophiles in the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle were operating under weak church leadership.

Thursday’s report follows another into the national Anglican Church which found that every church diocese in the country, bar one, had received complaints of child sexual abuse in the past 35 years.

The commission looked at alleged child abuse, bullying and cover-ups within the Newcastle diocese, producing a report of more than 400 pages just on the Newcastle Anglicans.

It has found former Newcastle Anglican Bishop Roger Herft’s response to abuse was “weak, ineffectual and noted a failure of leadership”.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Children, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

How One Anglican Congregation Asserted its First Amendment Rights amd Effected a Change in City Policy

The city’s policy did not expressly prohibit use of the park for religious activities or by religious groups. Instead, the city’s denial of the application was based on unchecked, arbitrary discretion – which is Constitutionally invalid.

Under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, religious expression and speech are protected in traditional public forums such as public parks like that of Old Town Square in Fairfax. City restrictions on such freedoms are heavily scrutinized and must not discriminate against a particular viewpoint. Further, in traditional public forums, state actors cannot censor people or groups based on the content of their speech, except when there is a compelling state purpose and the restriction is both necessary and the wording narrowly tailored to achieve that purpose. Accordingly, the Supreme Court has ruled in other similar cases that in circumstances like these in which the forum is available to others and the event is open to the public, there is no Establishment Clause conflict. Additionally, in order for the state to require permits (i.e. approval) as a prerequisite for individuals or groups to engage in protected speech, it must follow very strict and objective criteria in decision making. To base such permits on vague discretion by officials making the individual decisions may be considered a prior restraint on protected speech and a violation of the First Amendment.

Fairfax City’s denial of Shepherd’s Heart’s application “was classic prior restraint, which is exactly what the Founders wanted to prevent when they drafted the First Amendment,” explained Gorman. “We used the Freedom of Information Act to get access to the city’s park policies. Even though they said it wasn’t allowed, there was nothing in writing to back it up. It was completely arbitrary.”

Gorman, feeling convinced of the Constitutional violation, contacted the Center for Religious Expression in Memphis, Tennessee who took on the case pro-bono.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), City Government, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

(PD) Christopher Green+David Upham–The 14th Amendment and Masterpiece Cakeshop: Equal Citizenship, our Inclusive Republic, and Anglo-American Common Law

Like several other big First Amendment cases the Supreme Court will hear this year, Masterpiece Cakeshop is not really a First Amendment case. By its terms, the First Amendment restrains only “Congress” from making laws abridging “the freedom of speech” or prohibiting “the free exercise” of religion, but the Masterpiece case involves a state law. It is the Fourteenth Amendment, adopted after the Civil War, that restricts the states’ powers over religion or speech. Yet, as in last year’s Trinity Lutheran case, the Fourteenth Amendment has barely been mentioned in the briefing so far.

Our amicus brief to the Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop is so far the only attempt to consider at length the relevance of the original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment for the case. Our scholarly work has documented in detail—sometimes quite tedious detail!—that the original meaning expressed by “privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States,” which the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed the freedmen, includes civic equality with all similarly situated fellow citizens of the United States. Although it is fuzzy at the margins, the authors of the amendment made its central applications very clear, especially in the Civil Rights Acts of 1866, 1871, and 1875 and in the discussions leading to them. In particular, they made clear that the Fourteenth Amendment forbids not only racial discrimination, but also creedal discrimination—giving fewer rights to some citizens because of their religious or political beliefs. In many ways, to be sure, hostility to creedal discrimination resonates with current First Amendment speech and religion doctrine. When states are involved, however, originalist interpretation can and should stand on its own Fourteenth Amendment foundation of equal citizenship….

In sum, the common law and the original Republican understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment converge on the same intuitive argument in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop: America is an inclusive republic, where all citizens, regardless of race, color, creed, or way of life, have a right to participate in the marketplace, free from the creedal exclusions imposed by those armed with state coercive power, save perhaps where that citizen uses some monopoly power to exclude other citizens from the market. Colorado has sought to force the baker either to leave his profession or provide wedding-related services incompatible with his creed. He can have no duty to provide such services where the same-sex couple can obtain their wedding cake a short distance down the street. Jack Phillips has no market power over dissenting minorities like that exercised in the Jim Crow South; he himself is the member of a dissenting creedal minority who seeks simply the liberty to participate in the market consistently with his conscience. When substitute goods and services are readily available, there is no moral, common-law, or Fourteenth Amendment justification for creedal and exclusionary limits on occupational freedom.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Theology

The 113 Page Transcript of today’s Very Important Masterpiece Cakeshop Case Before the Supreme Court

(From Pages 4-5 to give you a taste–KSH)
JUSTICE GINSBURG: What if — what if it’s — if it’s an item off the shelf? That is, they don’t commission a cake just for them but they walk into the shop, they see a lovely cake, and they say we’d like to purchase it for the celebration of our marriage tonight. The Colorado law would prohibit that. Would you claim that you are entitled to an exception?

MS. WAGGONER: Absolutely not. The compelled speech doctrine is triggered by compelled speech. And in the context of a pre-made cake, that is not compelled speech.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Luke Goodrich on the Masterpiece Cakeshop Case–Religious freedom is for Christians, too

Most strikingly, a disproportionate share of religious freedom cases are brought by non-Christian minorities. The proportion of religious-freedom cases brought by Hindus was five times their share of the population in the six states under 10th Circuit jurisdiction. The factor was 10 for Native Americans and 17 for Muslims. The most underrepresented group? Christians, who were involved in only one-fourth as many cases as their share of the population.

That means that religious freedom protections remain especially important for non-Christian minorities. But it also raises a question: Why is there so much hand-wringing about a handful of religious-liberty cases brought by Christians?

This is because the political left applies a double standard. If religious liberty is invoked by a favored minority, it is legitimate. But if it is invoked by a Christian with traditional moral views, it is seen as an excuse for hate. Progressives engage in culture-war bullying when religious liberty would stand in the way of their social views. One of the Colorado state commissioners in Masterpiece Cakeshop called the Christian baker’s religious-freedom claim “one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use—to use their religion to hurt others.”

But if religious liberty means anything, it means the right to live according to your beliefs when most people think you are wrong.

So when Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, stands before the Supreme Court Tuesday, he may have some unlikely allies rooting for him: non-Christian religious minorities.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(NYT Op-ed) Robert George+Sherif Girgis: A Baker’s First Amendment Rights

You need the First Amendment precisely when your ideas offend others or flout the majority’s orthodoxies. And then it protects more than your freedom to speak your mind; it guards your freedom not to speak the mind of another.

Thus, in classic “compelled speech” rulings, the Supreme Court has protected the right not to be forced to say, do or create anything expressing a message one rejects. Most famously, in West Virginia v. Barnette (1943), it barred a state from denying Jehovah’s Witnesses the right to attend public schools if they refused to salute the flag. In Wooley v. Maynard (1977), the court prevented New Hampshire from denying people the right to drive if they refused to display on license plates the state’s libertarian-flavored motto “live free or die.”

On Tuesday, the court will consider whether Colorado may deny Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, the right to sell custom wedding cakes because he cannot in conscience create them for same-sex weddings. Mr. Phillips, who has run his bakery since 1993, sells off-the-shelf items to anyone, no questions asked. But he cannot deploy his artistic skills to create cakes celebrating themes that violate his religious and moral convictions. Thus he does not design cakes for divorce parties, lewd bachelor parties, Halloween parties or same-sex weddings.

Colorado’s order that he create same-sex wedding cakes (or quit making any cakes at all) would force him to create expressive products carrying a message he rejects. That’s unconstitutional.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

Mediation Process between the Historic Diocese of South Carolina and the new TEC in SC Diocese Recessed Until January

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today a further session of mediation with Senior U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Anderson Jr. was conducted.  Mediation is now in recess until January 11-12 in Columbia.

The clergy of the Diocese are reminded that Judge Anderson is allowing no discussion, outside of mediation sessions, of what has been said there.

As the Diocese continues to faithfully journey through this process of litigation at multiple levels, I ask your continued prayers for wisdom and discernment on the part of the Bishop, legal counsel and all the Diocesan leadership.

In Christ’s service,

–The Rev. Canon Jim Lewis is Canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of South Carolina

Posted in * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina